Groupon take note: Virgin America, Starwood's Westin and Sheraton brands, Travelocity and Celebrity Cruises are among the travel companies slated to participate in American Express' "coupon-less" deals platform on Facebook.
With the just-launched American Express Link, Like, Love deals platform on Facebook, cardmembers link their American Express cards to the programs and get served up deals based in part on their Facebook "likes" and the "likes" of friends in their network.
And, instead of purchasing prepaid vouchers, cardmembers pay for a service or product up-front and then receive a discount in the form of statement credit.
And, despite American Express' statements about the benefits of its program over voucher-based deals, actually there is little in common between the divergent models.
With details about the model rolling in, the American Express deals platform is undoubtedly much more supplier-friendly than the flash sales norm.
But, will it have comparable consumer sizzle?
For example, Westin and Sheraton hotels are each offering American Express cardholders $40 statement credits after they spend $100 or more for hotel stays at properties in North America. Each brand is offering the credits on 1,000 stays; the statement credits appear 3-5 days after the cardmember's spending, says Starwood spokeswoman Jennifer Leemann.
And, Travelocity yesterday began offering 20% off hotel bookings of $350 or more, says spokesman Joel Frey. Consumers pay the full room rate up-front and get the statement credit on their next statement.
The Travelocity offer runs through Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises was busy in the Amex deals platform offering a $600 credit after spending $2,000 or more. Now, that's some meaningful bucks coming back to the cruiser.
American Express is making a point of these offers being "exclusive coupon-less deals" with unstated comparisons to the voucher programs of Groupon, LivingSocial and Google Offers coming to mind.
"American Express will send statement credits to cardmembers' accounts as they shop online or in stores, without the need to pre-purchase anything, print out or show a coupon at the point of sale," American Express states.
If the Westin, Sheraton and Travelocity deals are representative, the types of Link, Like, Love deals under discussion don't appear to offer the steep discounts that Groupon and others promote with their prepaid vouchers, and the American Express "coupon-less"offers require consumers to spend more money up-front and then wait for credits.
From a supplier standpoint, the American Express program is much more vendor-friendly than Groupon-like programs, which generally take a 50% revenue share.
In fact, Leemann of Starwood says "there is no revenue share component," and unlike flash sales, there is "no expiration date."
American Express presumably makes its money on new card enrollments, merchant fees and promotions.
In addition, the American Express deals platform currently partners with national brands and not local mom-and-pop restaurants and activities providers which are the mainstay of flash sales providers.
Merchants offer the deals using American Express' Smart Offer APIs, which also provide analytics on deal redemption and customer loyalty so merchants can fine-tune their digital marketing, American Express says.
Using the Facebook social graph, American Express also will serve deal participants with Membership Rewards offers as well as other promotional initiatives, the company says.
American Express simultaneously announced it intends to roll out a Go Social marketing tool which will enable companies to serve up deals to cardmembers on their mobile devices.
With the deals space evolving, many companies are willing to experiment with divergent models.
That's the case with Virgin America, which sold out a Groupon in Chicago in less than eight minutes in February.
Abby Lunardini, a Virgin America spokeswoman, says the airline sees "some interesting potential" in the American Express deals platform "especially given the share-ability and we're eager to see how consumers respond."
Virgin America is an American Express launch partner, although it doesn't intend to offer a deal through the American Express platform until later in the Summer, Lunardini says.
"Groupon has a specific and highly successful approach too -- and we've seen some incredible and concrete results with it," Lunardini says, referring to the Chicago sale.
Lunardini adds: "With the social and online options for consumers expanding so quickly, we are seeing potential in a lot of different spaces and as young airlines based here in Silicon Valley, we're always eager to explore new models."